Most Read in 2016

A look back at the stories that resonated with our readers

We don’t publish a lot of lists here on But at the end of every year we do like to take a look back at the stories that resonated with our readers.

In that spirit, we’ve compiled the most-read pieces published on our website in 2016, as well as the most-read work from our archives

And for good measure, we’ve pulled together a few pieces worth an honorable mention; CNF content that was published elsewhere on the Internet; and the best advice, inspiration, and think pieces from some of our favorite publications.

If you enjoy what follows, please know that there’s more where that came from. Less than 10 percent of CNF’s content is available online.

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Top Stories from 2016

  1. I Survived the Blizzard of ’79
    As the snow falls ever heavier and the temperature drops ever lower in the author’s hometown, she ventures out into a world of white // BETH ANN FENNELLY
  2. In the Grip of the Sky
    If you’re wracked with joint pain, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows // SONYA HUBER
  3. The Math of Marriage
    One simple equation compels the author to take a fifth trip down the aisle // ELANE JOHNSON
  4. Finding Truth in Technology
    Five memoirists share their favorite tools for re-creating scenes and setting // SEJAL H. PATEL
  5. The Marrying Kind
    Married for twenty years, happily divorced for six, the author vowed never to wed again—except in the role of officiant // JANE BERNSTEIN
  6. Before We’re Writers, We’re Readers
    Fifteen contemporary writers of creative nonfiction discuss the nonfiction books they remember best from childhood and which influenced them as writers // RANDON BILLINGS NOBLE
  7. Afterlife
    New York Times obituary writer Margalit Fox has the last word // JANE MAHER
  8. How the Mind Works
    The better we understand the brain’s processes, the more artful our writing can be // DAVE MADDEN
  9. Writing Motherhood
    Parenting blogs and magazines have become ubiquitous, but is the literature of motherhood still undervalued? // MARCELLE SOVIERO
  10. A Story We Tell Ourselves & Others
    Finding inspiration in marriage memoirs // RANDON BILLINGS NOBLE


Top Stories from the Archive

  1. Picturing the Personal Essay
    A visual guide // TIM BASCOM
  2. The Line Between Fact & Fiction
    On borrowing the tools of novelists // ROY PETER CLARK
  3. How to Write Like a Mother#^@%*&
    A conversation with Cheryl Strayed // ELISSA BASSIST
  4. The Same Story
    Two young women, pregnant at the same time by the same man // SUZANNE ROBERTS
  5. Poetry & Science
    A view from the divide // ALISON HAWTHORNE DEMING
  6. The “Five R’s” of Creative Nonfiction
    Breaking down the essentials of the form // LEE GUTKIND


Honorable Mention

  1. True Empathy or Understanding Is Rare
    A conversation with JUDITH BARRINGTON
  2. Believe It
    Narrative credibility is in the eye of the beholder // SARAH SMARSH
  3. Man on the Tracks
    When you watch a man on the tracks before an oncoming train, that’s exactly what you do: watch // ERIKA ANDERSON
  4. A Genre by Any Other Name?
    The story behind the term creative nonfiction // DINTY W. MOORE
  5. Nature Mothers
    From Rachel Carson to Cheryl Strayed, what women writers have found in the wild // VIVIAN WAGNER


Work originally from CNF but appearing elsewhere in 2016

  1. Hidden Stories and Historical Half Truths
    Lies your ancestors told you // On history, heritage, and whitewashing // LITHUB
  2. The Suicide Memoir
    True crime, mystery, and grief // A brief look at a dark genre // LITHUB
  3. I Invited Twelve People to Write about Their Mental Illnesses for the First Time
    Here’s what happened next // WASHINGTON POST
  4. Pulling Your Hair Out Is Actually a Mental Illness
    Here’s how I learned to stop doing it // WASHINGTON POST
  5. The Life of a Supermodel Sounds Glamorous
    But I lived it—and it made me severely depressed // WASHINGTON POST
  6. On the Ethics of Writing About Your Children
    Four nonfiction writers discuss how to navigate writing parenthood // LITHUB
  7. Dangerous [Language]
    A young teacher tires of hearing “boys will be boys” // BRAIN, CHILD
  8. How I Helped Tell a Soldier’s Story
    Jane Bernstein on finding the human detail in a memoir of war // LITHUB
  9. The Hidden History of Gas Station Bathrooms
    By a man who cleans them // NARRATIVELY
  10. Larimer and Orphan
    How the last Italian store on a forgotten street in Pittsburgh found a state of grace // PLACES JOURNAL


Our favorite stories from around the Internet


  1. How to Cultivate the Art of Serendipity
    On finding what you’re not seeking // NY TIMES
  2. Can Confessional Writing Be Literary?
    On the challenges of writing about trauma // BREVITY
  3. What You Read Matters More Than You Might Think
    Want to be a better writer? Read better // QUARTZ
  4. If You Just Keep Writing, Will You Get Better?
    It’s complicated // JANE FRIEDMAN
  5. Can the Academic Write?
    A conversation about style // THE AWL
  6. How to Be a Writer
    Joy, suffering, reading, and lots and lots of writing // LITHUB
  7. Essay Is the New Black
    What I learned from veteran writers at a panel on essays // THE WRITER
  8. Seven Ideas to Inspire and Improve Personal Essays
    Advice from the NY Times // NY TIMES
  9. The Need to Read
    Reading books remains one of the best ways to engage with the world, become a better person, and understand life’s questions, big and small // WALL STREET JOURNAL
  10. Consider the Lobster Mushroom
    A brief theory of the craft of creative nonfiction // BREVITY
  11. Choose Your Own Memoir
    Comic // GRANT SNIDER



  1. Print is the New “New Media”
    On the resurgence of print publications // COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW
  2. How Stories Deceive
    A look at the uses (and abuses) of narrative // NEW YORKER
  3. How to Win an Election
    How candidates use the art of storytelling to help swing elections // NY TIMES
  4. Fiction v Nonfiction
    English literature’s made-up divide // THE GUARDIAN
  5. Confessions of a Reluctant Memoirist
    Why has an entire genre come to be defined by its worst iterations? // LITHUB
  6. Can the Literary Survive Technology?
    Sven Birkerts on our changing brains and what comes next // LITHUB
  7. Do You Suffer from Memory Blindness?
    The influence of others on what we remember // SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
  8. Where Are All the Women Writing Longform?
    Roy Peter Clark checks the history of the Pulitzer Prizes // POYNTER
  9. The Dark Side of Longform Journalism
    On waiting for the bad to happen // LITHUB
  10. When You Write a Memoir, Readers Think They Know You Better Than They Do
    Dani Shapiro on the loneliness of the long-distance memoirist // NY TIMES
  11. Dealing in Uncertainty
    The essay may be the perfect form for our time // LA TIMES